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RONAL GROUP: Standstill is not an Option

For the RONAL GROUP, a leading international manufacturer of light-alloy wheels, a production standstill due to an IT breakdown would be catastrophic. The market for automotive suppliers is highly competitive and production lines run on a tight schedule. This is why the company decided to outsource the operation of its highly available ERP system on IBM Power Servers for its locations in Switzerland, Portugal, Spain and France to ITpoint, a Swiss managed services specialist. ITpoint provides RONAL GROUP with IBM expertise and 24/7 support, so the company can focus more on its core business. Here is the story of their successful collaboration.


Starting Point
The IT department of RONAL AG provides the IT strategy for the entire international RONAL GROUP. RONAL AG IT is clear about its role as a business enabler for the RONAL business organization. In order to guarantee smooth functioning of the company’s entire IT infrastructure, the RONAL IT team provides software solutions and tech services according to clear specifications, standardized according to ITIL best practices. The Infor XPPS (Infor Xpert) ERP system is absolutely indispensable to their work. This ERP system runs on IBM Power Servers (IBM i / OS400) and is a core application in RONAL GROUP’s highly efficient production process. The availability of this core system is of the utmost importance, because when the ERP solution comes to a halt, so does the entire production line. 

Ronal IT Web 0001 Ronal Walbrzych 04115The Challenge: 24/7 IBM Power Know-How
The RONAL GROUP always operated under the motto «IT on the spot». Until recently, it had its own IBM Power (IBM i) servers at almost all production sites. However, the knowledge and resources required to effectively run the IBM i / OS400 was not available at all locations. The Swiss IT team had to regularly call in IT colleagues from other countries, which took too long in emergencies and certainly wasn’t an efficient solution for the long term. On top of that, RONAL lacked the around-the-clock support they needed. The IT team at RONAL AG in Switzerland were faced with more than they could handle.

The Solution
When it came time for a hardware renewal of the IBM Power machine in Härkingen in 2014, RONAL AG took the opportunity to find a better solution for system operation. The backup system replication via Mimix required a second machine that RONAL AG did not have in Switzerland, and mirroring on an existing power server at RONAL GmbH in Germany was out of the question because the Swiss system contained sensitive personal and financial data that RONAL AG did not want to send data abroad. So where to go with two IBM i systems in Switzerland?

Ronal IT Web 0000 Ronal Landau 05290To the Swiss data center of an IBM Power specialist!
RONAL AG carefully considered the offers, concepts and references of two providers. Following a thorough evaluation, the company decided to partner with ITpoint Systems AG. The transition from their on-site physical IBM i/IBM Power infrastructure to a flawless, powerful and guaranteed 24/7 managed service was carried out in three steps:

  • In 2014, the physical IBM Power System at the headquarters of the RONAL AG in Härkingen was renewed as planned. Replication was carried out via the ITpoint data center in Lupfig and data was sent to the ORIA Shared Cloud environment with Enterprise Standard. ITpoint took over support for RONAL AG’s IBM Power System both on-site in Härkingen as well as in the ITpoint data center.
  • In 2016, the IBM Power machine in Härkingen was physically shifted to ITpoint's primary data center in Bern. A RONAL AG MPLS connection network was established for the redundant, efficient connections to the individual locations. Replication continued on the ITpoint Shared Cloud Environment (SCE) at the second location in Lupfig. ITpoint now assumes full operational responsibility for all IBM Power systems in RONAL plants in Switzerland, Portugal, France.
  • In 2018, RONAL AG’s physical IBM Power infrastructure was dissolved, and the IBM Power platform still required for the ERP system was migrated to the ITpoint Shared Cloud environment in the Bern data center. The locations (Bern and Lupfig) remain the same, but RONAL AG in Switzerland is now relieved of the burdan of maintaining its own power server.


The RONAL GROUP now enjoys the convenience of having all its IBM Power services provided as a guaranteed, managed service by the ITpoint data center.

Advantages
The outsourcing of IT tasks is often met with resistance from internal IT teams. But at RONAL AG, this was certainly not the case. Andreas Dusold, Head of IT Support, was glad to have ITpoint’s support.

  • Shortest system maintenance times: Thanks to ITpoint’s professional maintenance preparation and its high level of IBM Power competence, the RONAL GROUP’s exceptionally tight production windows were not disrupted. For example, the team managed to move the plant in Spain into the shared cloud environment in only one day. Such a feat calls for a competent team that is able to compensate for staff failures if necessary.
  • No risk of ERP system standstill in production planning and control: System mirroring in two geo-redundant Swiss data centers with redundant connections to locations in Switzerland, Portugal, France, Spain means guaranteed availability. 
  • Fast and competent help in case of failure: 24/7 Platinum Support with access to ITpoint's large pool of IT specialists for any issues related to IT infrastructure and operation.
  • Reasonably priced services instead of costly purchases: The IBM Power machines are not cheap. At the ITpoint data center, the RONAL GROUP can leverage the latest generation of IBM Power Servers in a professional enterprise environment without having to buy them. 

The RONAL GROUP enjoys a fruitful collaboration with ITpoint and appreciates their high-quality services. "There has been a real change in mindset at RONAL GROUP," notes Andreas Dusold. Other RONAL GROUP locations no longer replace older IBM Power machines with new hardware. Instead, they procure the operating platform as a managed service. The ERP system has also set a good example for other applications and operating systems we work with.

Interview with Andreas Dusold, Head of IT Support, RONAL GROUP

About the RONAL GROUP
Headquartered in Härkingen, Switzerland, RONAL GROUP is one of the leading manufacturers of alloy wheels for passenger cars and commercial vehicles. As a long-standing partner of the automotive industry, the company needs to make sure its rims meet the strict requirements of vehicle manufacturers. The company is constantly growing and has an estashed reputation for customer proximity, innovation and quality work. The RONAL GROUP employs more than 8,000 people worldwide.

The RONAL AG headquarters in Härkingen has approximately 130 employees and is home to many of the company’s major departments, such as technical development, engineering, finance and controlling, sales, IT, human resources, supply chain management, operations, quality, legal and compliance, and marketing and communications.

RONAL GROUP Facts and Figures
- Founded in 1969
- 8,000+ employees worldwide
- Capacity: more than 21 million wheels per year
- 13 production sites on 3 continents (10 in Europe, 2 in the NAFTA region, 1 in Taiwan
- Turnover: €1.4 billion (2017)
- Investments: Ø approx. €100 million per year

The visuals were provided by RONAL GROUP.